Parker named Honorary Relay Survivor Chair

Wednesday, April 20, 2005
Survivor Judy Parker said people should not be ashamed of things they cannot help, like losing their hair. (Times photo/Jennifer Vernon)

"I was very honored. I did not expect this - I hope I can be worthy of it," Judy Parker said in response to being selected as the 2005 Relay for Life Honorary Survivor Chairperson. "At first I said there are so many others that I feel are more worthy of this. Cancer has affected so many in this area, but I really am honored."

Parker, who finished her treatments in February, was diagnosed with uterine cancer during her regular yearly pap test and mammogram after mentioning that she had been having some problems. She stressed that it is very important for people to go for yearly check-ups and communicate with their doctors, because from the outset her tests showed nothing was wrong, but her comment to her doctor made him look a little harder - and when he did he found the disease.

After surgery in Memphis, Parker underwent radiation at the Ben E. Owens clinic at St. Bernards and chemotherapy at the NEA Clinic, both of which are in Jonesboro.

She said that losing her hair was one of the hardest things, but approached it with something she says is key for those fighting the disease - a sense of humor. "You can take a pill for nausea, you can take a pill for the pain, but you can't take a pill to make your hair grow back in overnight," she said. She opted to go wig-less for the accompanying photo because she said people should not be ashamed when they lose their hair - they just did what they had to do to fight their disease and it could not be helped.

Parker has dealt with cancer before, her daughter, Jennifer, died after a brave fight with the disease at age 25. Due to her personal experiences, she has four key pieces of advice for those dealing with cancer.

"First of all, keep a journal," she said. "You may be able to say things in that journal that you can't say to anyone else.

"Never give up hope. The community is behind you so let them help, whether it be through a phone call, card or prayers." She continued, "You wouldn't believe how many cards I've received and how much they meant to me. Some were cards from other cancer victims. I got cards from people I didn't really know and I'm trying to be as good about sending cards.

"Keep the faith. We don't know why some roads we have to travel are more difficult than others, but God will see us through," she said.

The final bit of advice, is perhaps one of the most important and is one reflected in Parker's sunny outlook. "Keep a sense of humor. Yes, we're dealing with life and death, but if you don't keep your sense of humor - you lose perpective. A sense of humor will get you through a lot."

Parker credits her wonderful support system for helping her get through her battle. Her husband Kenny, their children, her church and the community have all been there for her throughout the experience.

Parker has been working with the Relay since 2000, which was its second year in Clay County.

"The Relay offers hope to everyone - even those who lose their battle - because there are so many who deserve a longer life, especially children, and we want all of the research we can get to help" she said. "It amazes me how many people turn out and work hard to help raise money for research."

The 2005 Clay County Relay for Life will be held from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, April 30, at Heritage Park in Piggott.

The day will end with the traditional luminaria ceremony. Luminaries may be purchased from any Relay for Life team or at the Piggott Times office.

All proceeds will benefit the American Cancer Society.

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